By Brian Sugarman on April 4, 2021
Tags: Data Collection
Creating forms to capture data is one of the most important components of business today. When you design a great form, your business is collecting data that then becomes an asset you can use for reports and analysis.
But if you’ve ever experienced creating a form, you already know that how you structure the form will impact the data that’s collected. You want to be very thoughtful in how you design your forms, making it easy for people to respond, while also getting the required information in the correct format.
This blog post will introduce you to some of the most common form fields and we will explain some of the best practices for creating an effective form. We will also highlight some of the specific types of forms to consider and examples of how they can be used to collect information.
While there are many options to choose from, it’s good to remember that forms are simple and with some practice, you can become an expert in no time. With the form builders on the market today, you’ll be able to create forms, improve workflows, and automate key business processes to become more efficient. Keep reading for an overview on creating forms and additional resources to get started.
Modern form builders have many different types of form fields that can be used for different business purposes. Some common examples of field types are things like:
People have many different reasons for using forms, so it makes sense to have a form builder with a wide variety of form fields to fit every data collection need. With so many options for the types of form fields you can use, it may be helpful to also think about them in terms of categories:
In the next section, we cover some of the most common types of forms and a brief summary of the types of form fields that are most commonly used. This should give you an idea of how these form fields are put into practice for some of the top business use cases for collecting data.
It’s quite common for businesses to collect contact information from their customers. Contact forms typically use text and number fields to collect a name, telephone number, email address, and similar types of information.
A good practice to remember in forms is to think about how data is collected and designing your forms to standardize the data. For example, instead of using an open text field, you may want to consider using a choice field with a drop-down that lists the available options.
A great example of this is for fields like “State,” where you would want to list a drop-down of formatted states. In this example, if you were to leave the field open-ended, you could get a wide variety of formats for the same state (e.g. NY, New York) or you could have misspellings that happen by mistake. Giving people a drop-down ensures that data is formatted correctly for when you need to report on it later.
Contact forms can also be used for longer text fields that allow people to submit more extensive information, such as the reason that they are submitting the contact form.
Invoices are used as forms to collect payment information, typically in a table-style format. These can be used to highlight an item name or description, the quantity of an item purchased on the invoice, a price per unit, and a total cost for each line item.
This type of form typically uses text and number fields, as well as a calculation field that can automatically perform math calculations to make it easier for people by pulling in dynamic information like prices and sales tax.
These types of forms are particularly useful if your business has dynamic pricing that is stored in a separate database. Instead of requiring employees to look up the current price, it can be automatically populated with real-time information to make the process more efficient when processing invoices.
Other advanced features include payment authorizations and signature form fields so that customers can sign for credit card transactions or sign off on agreements. Many digital forms can also accept credit card information that people can integrate through payment processors like Square, PayPal, Stripe, and other similar solutions.
Surveys are one of the most popular use cases for forms and they are used to collect answers or feedback from a group of people. Common examples include asking customers to rate your level of satisfaction or collecting feedback from employees on ways to improve your business. With so many possibilities for types of surveys, it makes sense that they leverage many different types of form fields, including:
If you have a more complex survey, you can also consider using conditional logic in your form. This means that people will be navigated to different options that are dynamic based on their answers to the questions.
For example, if someone answers “Yes” to a question, they may be prompted later on with the option to provide a more detailed explanation for their answer. If they selected “No,” then they may be directed to a different set of follow-up questions. This type of logic allows you to make the form more dynamic and relevant based on the information that is provided in real-time.
Creating forms for inspections provides form builders with many options to create highly effective and powerful inspection tools.
Like many forms, inspections often begin with different Text and Number fields where an inspector can add their information and the relevant details about what they are inspecting, such as the address or the reason for the inspection. Inspection forms also include a number of advanced options:
Creating a log is a fairly simple use case for a form. Logs typically are in the format of a table and people can log certain information, but most commonly are seen with companies that need to log work milestones, like keeping track of time or materials.
Log forms vary in the type of information collected, including text and numbers, multimedia, date, time, location, and others. Using digital logs, companies can ensure that projects stay on time and data can be collected from a large number of people for reporting purposes.
It’s very common that businesses need to create records. This can be for tracking a certain event, documenting specific actions that have occurred, or even for recording physical items.
When creating a record, forms can help to standardize the data that is being collected. This will depend on what type of record is being created, but most commonly text and number form fields are used to track specific details about the record and the date/time of the event.
Companies may also use automated notifications that remind individuals when to generate records. For example, if a record needs to be generated every month for a certain action, calendar alerts for the future can be set up when logging a record.
One familiar example is creating a customer record for a CRM system. Companies create a customer record form to intake information about a customer or update existing information about a customer. The form builders often integrate directly into the customer relationship management (CRM) systems so that companies can use these forms to update and maintain records seamlessly.
Checklists are widely used in different industries as forms to collect information. The simple nature of a checklist allows people to select from a multiple-choice checkbox item or a single checkbox item. Many times these will use the required field option so that every checkbox requires you to select an answer before you can submit it.
Inspections will frequently use checklists so employees can certify that a long list of items has been inspected. This is another example where conditional logic is particularly useful, giving people the ability to request additional information on the form depending on the check box response.
After reading this article, you can see how forms can go in many different directions and there are endless ways to customize the information that’s collected. Many people find that it’s helpful to start from a pre-built template and then customize the form to fit your specific needs. Other people prefer to start totally from scratch, so there is really no right or wrong answer to the question. At GoCanvas, our form builder provides a great deal of flexibility to fit all of your form-building needs and we have an extensive library of templates to help you get started.